COUNCIL is hoping the latest major sporting event it has attracted to Bendigo proves to be a home run, with international baseball in the city this weekend.
Strathfieldsaye Recreation Reserve will host the Australian Emeralds and a Japanese All-Star team who will face off in a pre-World Cup hitout.
Both sides have been drawn in the same group for the World Cup, which will be held in Florida in August.
Japan is the reigning world champion, with Canada, Cuba, Hong Kong and the Dominican Republic completing the world cup group.
The Bendigo Baseball Challenge adds to the city’s hit list of international events including rugby sevens, hockey, tennis, table tennis, gymnastics and volleyball in recent years.
With the completion of the Bendigo Stadium expansion, council will likely be eyeing further events including the Australian Boomers and Opals FIBA World Cup qualifiers and Australian Diamonds matches ahead of the 2019 Netball World Cup.
Two Australian squads have been named to face the Japanese All-Stars this weekend at Strathfieldsaye.
The squads include 16 representatives from the 2016 World Cup, including Tahnee Lovering and Tammy McMillan who were both named to the 2016 All-World Team after their performances in Korea.
Emeralds manager Simone Wearne believes the blend of youth and experience gives the squad significant depth.
“Over half the squad we have selected are 25 or under, with eight players under the age of 18,” she said.
“Those numbers are important for our program and show the depth that is coming through across the country.
“We have a number of veterans still pushing for selection, and this will no doubt assist in creating a really competitive environment for overall World Cup team selection.
“The Bendigo Challenge is another great opportunity for our players to be exposed to international game play, and more importantly, be thrown into an environment that is as close as possible to replicating World Cup play.”
The teams will be welcomed to Bendigo with a civic reception today before the weekend’s matches.
Games between the two Australian teams and the Japanese squad will be played at 9am, 11.30am and 2pm on Saturday and Sunday.
Monday sees the two Australian teams face off at 8.45am, with the winner to play Japan in the final match from 10.30am.